Okay, So the Gift Knitting Wasn’t All Roses

I didn’t tell you the entire story of my holiday gift knitting in the last post.

My parents and siblings decided this year to scrap the round robin of individual gifts in favor of the secret santa system — which wasn’t even secret, not that any of us heathens cared.  So you can imagine my relief when evil-me went from trying to talk good-me into making a whole bunch of stuff — starting, oh, mid-November — to sane-me realizing I could still crank out a gift knit because I only had to make ONE.

I got my brother’s name.  Noah is awesome, fashionable, self-reflective, sensitive.  In other words: a great recipient of handknits.

Noah!

I started off making Noah Purl Soho’s Shawl Collar Cowl in Malabrigo Chunky — Lettuce on the outside, Natural (white) on the inside.  The yarn came from my stash, the project was working up quickly.  At Thanksgiving, I asked Noah’s fiancée Abby what kind of handknit he would like and she said “a cowl” and told me how he tried to buy one on Etsy and it was too long and girlish.  I felt like a champ!  The Shawl Collar Cowl is so chic and manly and I was going to solve Noah’s problem.  And he was going to look smashing in that lettuce green, if I do say so.

my beautiful failure

How does the saying go?  If it’s too good to be true… Well, perfection was far from achieved: I ran out of yarn.  Although I had researched what yarn would be a good substitute and looked up the needle size, I never checked how much yarn I needed.  Why, I cannot say.  This is not my first time at the rodeo.  (This is not the first time I have made this mistake, either, arg!)

Worse yet, this college town has gone, in five years, from having three yarn stores to having half a yarn store.  The remaining half store is downtown, where no one who doesn’t work downtown wants to go.  But go I went — and on the Saturday before Christmas no less.  I knew it was a long shot, that I might have to start over in a new color rather than just alternate between dye lots, but at least this place specializes in Malabrigo.  I still had hope that this project would be saved.

(There’s that foreshadowing of doom again, eh?)

I do believe I gasped out loud when I walked in to this very small shop.  Admittedly I had not been there in a year or more and I knew the owner had been scaling back the yarn portion of her business (she also sells clothing and jewelry). Eyes as wide as saucers, I gaped like a fish for a moment before finally choking out the question, “Where’s all the yarn?” to the owner.  The shelves and walls set aside for yarn were nearly empty — altogether there was only an armful of yarn in that shop.  The needle wall was almost empty.  My stomach sank to the floor as I realized: I have more yarn in my house than this shop now carries.

You might be tempted to conclude that there was a run on her small stock as people grabbed all the yarntastic gifts, but no.  The owner patiently explained that Malabrigo, the small cooperative, cannot keep up with the demand of her customers, so people are putting themselves on a waitlist and when it comes in, she calls.  A month later and I am still aghast at this… solution?  I am sure I don’t know all of what is going on in her store, but isn’t this the kind of thing that a dozen online businesses are doing, only faster?  And charging less?  And if you can’t keep yarn on the shelf, but still have empty shelves, why wouldn’t you carry another brand?  This used to be the place to go for Reynolds brand yarns, as well, including Lopi.  I didn’t see that at all.

At this point I could have gone to the big box store and gotten something else so I could forge ahead, but I decided to cash in my chips and cast on a pair of socks.  There was now no way I could finish in time and I used a precious skein of Trekking XXL that I had been saving for myself, but it seemed that some kind of sacrifice was demanded by nature in order to make this vicious cycle of WTF end.

socks of brotherly love

Noah was gracious about opening up part of a gift that wasn’t finish and I know he looks forward to these extra special  socks.  I’m still not done with Noah’s holiday socks because I  tried to pull off some other knitting miracle for my husband’s January birthday.  But first, I have one more gift knit to tell you about.  And this one is truly epic (the knitting, not the story).  Here’s a preview:

IMG_0233

The Gift of Gift Knitting

It’s really no fun to read about how crummy someone’s vacation was so we won’t dwell on it.  I’ve only just recovered, psychologically, this week.  Farewell, 2013!  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out!

The BEST part of winter break, for me, this year was seeing how genuinely happy my husband and children were upon opening their handknit gifts.  Does that sound too cute and saccharine?  It’s true.  There were big Os of surprise, there were smiles, thanks, hugs, and kisses from four through thirty-six.  GO ME!

boot socks

(It does help that I have made it clear that the best way to get on the handknit list is to appreciate the things I make, sincerely and loudly.  This elf is making her own kind of list and checking it twice.)

For the past few years — in my efforts to enjoy the winter holiday season rather than just survive it — I’ve stepped way back from trying to make something for EVERYONE (that’s 11+ people).  It seems like a good idea in the planning stage (I looooove the planning stage), but the execution of the plan goes on too long for my available knitting time.  There’s the amount of knitting time I actually have and what I wish I had or sometimes just think I have.

Full disclosure: I was on the crazy holiday knitting train at times this season.  And then I got off.  Got on. Off.

red scarf

I try to have a pair of socks on the needle for one of the four of us at all times.  So when Z’s latest pair came off the needles in mid-November, I decided it was serendipity and tossed it in the gift knits basket.  Then I saw, in that basket, a lovely, drapey, moss stitch scarf in heathered burgundy Paton’s Classic Wool.  Guess who likes burgundy?  Not me.  But Matt does.  (Like me, his favorite color is green, so this really wasn’t obvious to me or him while I was knitting this scarf, off and on, for a couple, um, years.)

purple mittens

That only left my four-year-old, who could use a handknit pair of mittens.  Something to balance out all the pink and leopard print.  I finished on Christmas Eve, after tucking my puking children and husband into bed.

She, by the way, wins at appreciating my work.  She reminds me almost daily how much she loves her mittens. Aw! Her savvy father, in between appreciations, has already put in his request for a Purl Soho Shawl Collar Cowl.

I wish I had better pictures to share, but here I am, working at home, and my family and all their handknits are out of the house.  The dark purple of those mittens is especially difficult to capture at this gloomy time of year, while attached to a four-year-old.  More information and photos are available on their Ravelry project pages, linked above.  An account on Ravelry is required to view.

How did your handknit holidays go?

First thoughts

I didn’t plan a six month hiatus and I’ve just realized that my absence here coincides with a big project I was working on that involved me reading about a novel a week.  Intense but can’t complain.

My garden was a joke this year. The worst it has been since I took it up in a serious way about six years ago.  It has grown every year, even with moving three times. Helps that we moved to places with more land I could work.  But this year, the combination of big work project starting in late June, high energy toddler, and no fence around my yard meant that I could not be outside working in the garden for more than ten minutes before she ran off and I had to follow.  Very frustrating.  There was talk about the house of making it more of a family effort but that came to naught.  And really, I just spent all my free time and some of theirs reading and writing.

The seed catalogs are starting to arrive and I am baffled.  Do I even bother?  I am trying to project forward to next summer.  I wonder if the small one will even be napping anymore.  I can’t not do a garden.  So it becomes a matter of how. And how much. Soil fertility is down so I think I may focus on feeding the soil over growing veg.  I’ll grow food but I need to learn how to feed my soil without pouring buckets of expensive fish emulsion into the ground.  Starting with all those friends who got chickens recently. 🙂

Finally sitting down to read my past six months of Organic Gardening helps my motivation.  And still in time to do some yard cleanup, given our warmer autumn.

The knitting never stopped, of course.  In fact this morning I woke with a fire in my head about dying a huge hank of yellow worsted weight handspun alpaca/wool which was–I am not kidding–my first piece of stash yarn.  I saw it, loved it, it was only $8 and I knew I did not know what I was going to do with it. (In fact, at the time of purchase, I think my only plan was to pet it.)  The hank has moved with me three times.  A few days ago I realized my problem is that I need to dye it.  Being soft, it begs to be worn next to the skin, but this pale lemony yellow is just about the worst color I could wear. This morning, my very first thought upon waking was to overdye it with blue or green.

I love my first thoughts of the day.  It is always something interesting.

Hard upon that I remembered that I have 2 skeins of Cascade Pastaza in a dark teal that would make a fantastic cowl.  Because walking my son to school is starting to get really cold and I am much more interested in knitting myself five complete sets of hat-scarf-mittens than holiday gift knitting.

Holiday gift knitting is minimal.  I am making armwarmers for my niece, mitts for my husband, and… that’s it!  I was going to make my children bears and then I tried to start them the other night and remembered how much I HATE knitting toys. So I freed myself of that obligation.

Anyway, after I woke up and had my first thoughts, I had to actually touch the yellow handspun and the Pastaza. In the same basket–the Alpaca Basket–were two skeins of Knit Picks Panache.  YUMMO!  Why is this not on my body?

Simultaneously my brain was trying to figure out how to make another cowl out of the handspun Jenny has gifted me (some of which is alpaca!).  I have three skeins, ranging worsted to bulky, in light green, dark emerald green, and purples.  Although the colors look nice together, I am not sure the yarns belong together.  So I am thinking thoughts of how to get the most out of small skeins of handspun.  Which are, of course, so beautiful I could just leave them as art to look at but I’ve been doing that for a while already.  Currently I am thinking of a Cat Bordhi Moebius Cowl because one can just keep knitting until the yarn runs out.  But I think I want to change it up from her simple lace pattern to garter stitch.

Well, all this typing is cutting into my knitting time.  Hah!  Time to go make something warm.

Crunch!

With all this sweater knitting going on, I’ve kept a sock going for traveling about or when I needed a break from any kind of mental activity.

Last weekend, I woke a bit earlier than my family, which is normal.  I’ve been reading classics online so I grabbed my laptop and my sock knitting, put them in bed, went to the bathroom, came back to bed and–crunch!  Knelt on my sock in progress.  I broke two of five needles and even though I have a spare (thanks, Knit Picks), I am not fond of knitting a circle on three needles. Honestly, I was still so groggy, I just tossed it off the bed and went on with reading.

It took me a day and a half to find another set of US 1 needles.  Hm.  I should have more but where are they?

This makes me feel justified for just a few seconds that I should go order some stuff from Knit Picks.  Then I remind myself that I only have one pair of hands and I can actually only knit one thing at a time, no matter what I dream of at night, so carry on, old girl.  When you’ve run out of sweaters to knit, you can get that Northern Lights Cape kit and throw in some of those stabby Harmony DPNs you love so much.

Or when your Brittany birch DPNs bite it, then really you will have no choice.  The other 284 needles will not do because they are not US 1/2.25 mm.  He won’t understand but he’s learned not to argue in certain arenas.  In fact, I think it was a US 1 DPN that punctured his arm a few years ago when he didn’t look where he was sitting.  Back when I still used aluminum 7 inchers.

The much anticipated results

I know you are all dying to know.  I know because you’ve asked.

The needle blocking experiment was successful!

Successful in that the scarf laid flat and the lace was open.  It was not a tight lace blocking but I didn’t think that was necessary for this little ditty.  My only concern is that the blocking will wear out over time and need to be redone.  Hopefully its new owner will not be shy about asking me.  If she notices.  If she cares.  About blocked lace, that is.  I’m not wallowing here.

Well, life continues it complicated, convoluted, not to be anticipated route.  Entangled indeed.  I am all astonishment that it has been two and a half months since my last post because I compose posts in my head nearly every day.  Blogging in general seems to be falling out of vogue in favor of other social media but I find that doesn’t make me want to do it less.  I am a writer and therefore journal by nature.  The public journal thing weirded me out at first (as a writer not a reader; I love reading them) but I find I am warming up to it quite nicely.  Not that one would know from my infrequent posts.  But I feel the shift.